Icecore: A Carl Hobbes Thriller


Hypothermia is never far away.

When the shivering stops, that's when you should start to worry. It's your body's way of signaling that it's lost the battle to keep your blood warm. But by then you'll be too weak to retrace your steps. Chances are you'll be so confused and disoriented that you won't even recall what it was you were fleeing in the first place. All you'll want to do is lie down in the snow and close your eyes.

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Hypothermia is never far away.

When the shivering stops, that's when you should start to worry. It's your body's way of signaling that it's lost the battle to keep your blood warm. But by then you'll be too weak to retrace your steps. Chances are you'll be so confused and disoriented that you won't even recall what it was you were fleeing in the first place. All you'll want to do is lie down in the snow and close your eyes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

If Robert Ludlum ever wrote a book for young adults, it would probably be a lot like Whyman's action-packed techno-thriller. Carl Hobbes, a 17-year-old British hacker, has penetrated the ultimate network: he's hacked into Fort Knox. Although he hasn't done it for profit ("I did it because I could.... It was the security measures I wanted to beat"), his ingenuity isn't exactly appreciated. The U.S. government essentially kidnaps him, and, along with some of the most infamous mercenaries and terrorists in the worlds, transports him to a U.S. detainment camp in the Arctic Circle known as the Guantánamo Bay of the North" for questioning. Soon after arrival, Hobbes and other enemies of the state are subjected to brutal interrogations-but when one of the detainees successfully stages a violent uprising, Hobbes must decide which side he is on. Powered by a fast-paced narrative, the exploration of numerous timely themes-criminality on the digital frontier, the war on terrorism, the ethics of torture and prolonged detainment versus human rights-gives this eminently readable adventure a degree of depth. Ages 12-up. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 12 up.

Imagine a British teenage computer hacker who manages to get into Fort Knox! And he does not want any of the gold--he has done it for the thrill of doing it. Unfortunately, he is not alone. Everything has been done online so he does not know any of the people he is dealing with except by their computer identities. Big mistake, as any fan of mysteries knows. Suddenly Carl is on a plane; his fellow passengers all seem to be criminals, and the man sitting next to him is some kind of government agent--his "control." It is a long flight and the plane does not seem to be in perfect condition, but finally they reach their destination. It is so cold, they are warned that they would not survive outside for more than half an hour, so there is no point in trying to escape. Carl would just like to survive inside. Now the plot gets a little strange. As soon as Carl enters the interview room, the head guard beats him up and slams him into a cage. The criminals inside the prison, he realizes, are not the only ones he has to worry about. Then there is the girl in the cage across from him. A girl? In the prison called ICECORE? Who is she really? It will be days before he learns that she is Chimera, the screen name of Beth Nelson, who actually got some of the gold! As if the story was not unbelievable before, we get even more unrealistic, to the point where I am unable to suppress disbelief. Now it is all violence--more revelations about the criminals inside, more beatings, some shooting, some death. Finally Carl and Beth are outside, freezing but more or less safe, deciding what to do with the rest of their lives. Basically, an unsatisfactory end--do we really care? Probablynot. Reviewer: Judy Silverman

VOYA - Steven Kral
On a dare, Carl Hobbes, an accomplished computer hacker, bypasses the security at Fort Knox. When arrested, he is given a choice by the FBI. He can stand trial and risk the near certainty of a lifetime in prison, or he can make a full confession and show the FBI how he broke in. After he makes his confession, he is sent to a secret government prison in the Arctic for debriefing. Upon arriving, he begins to realize the depth of the plot of which he was an unwitting part. Subject to casual brutality and at the center of a rapidly unfolding conspiracy, he must stay alive and convince a skeptical bureaucracy of his innocence. This novel is hampered by an excess of exposition. The break-in at Fort Knox, which would be an engaging first section, is instead told in flashback. The reader is not trusted to put the pieces of the ultimate conspiracy together and is instead told by Carl. Once the exposition is dealt with, however, the novel picks up considerably. In several well-written and exciting set pieces, Carl breaks out of his Arctic prison, defeats the conspiracy, and escapes into a possible sequel. Patrons looking for a thriller will find the novel satisfying, provided that they are able to look past the exposition-heavy narrative.
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up
When Carl Hobbes, 17, hacks into the computers that keep the doors to Fort Knox closed, he is tracked down by U.S. authorities and sent to a maximum-security location in the middle of a frozen landscape with other, far scarier criminals (terrorists, murderers, mercenaries) than himself. After all, his crime was simply opening some doors-what happened after that was out of his control. He tells the truth about his hacking to the commander at the Icecore compound, but everything there turns out to be extreme, from the freezing temperatures to brutality, and even what happens when Carl thinks he's finally leaving his personal hell on earth. Readers are repeatedly led to believe that they know what will happen next, but Whyman has the subtle knack of taking them in a completely unexpected but convincing direction. Superbly written and perfectly paced, the book expertly reveals the teen's despair and anger as things start to spiral out of control. Readers are continually left wondering, "How will Carl get himself out of this one?" The subtitle implies that this teen will be back in further adventures.
—Dylan ThomarieCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Another action thriller from Britain follows a young computer hacker who falls prey to the American rendition scheme and must escape from a top-security prison camp located in a frozen Arctic wasteland. Seventeen-year-old Carl Hobbes breaks into Fort Knox in virtual fashion, operating from his home computer. Although Carl pledges to tell the Americans how he did it, he's essentially kidnapped from England and flown to a remote prison along with bona-fide terrorists. Characterizations tend toward the extreme, if shallow, side, but add some nice color to the narrative. However, the good cop/bad cop personalities of the Americans are nothing compared to the actual terrorist who takes over the camp. Even in this males-only outpost, Whyman manages to include the obligatory hot babe. In the same entertainment-only vein of the Alex Rider series, but with a bit more depth and maturity. Great for action fans. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416949077
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 11/6/2007
  • Series: Carl Hobbes Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Whyman is a distinctive contemporary voice in children’s and adult writing. After graduating from the University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, Matt’s career as a writer has taken him from Agony Uncle columns (Bliss magazine and AOL) and teen self-help guides to the cutting edge of both adult and children’s fiction. His critically acclaimed young adult novel Boy Kills Man was short-listed for several awards, including the 2004 Teenage Book Prize, and praised by Melvin Burgess: ‘Bold, chilling and beautifully written’. It is currently in development as a feature film with the producers of the cult film Kidulthood. Matt is married with four children (and an enormous dog) and lives in West Sussex, England.

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Read an Excerpt


Frost forms on my lashes within minutes of my stepping outside. I am one of six detainees in this detail, walking single file to the runway now. The wind and snow may have died down since our arrival, but the cold continues to make its mark. Even with the thermal head covers handed out to us, the air out here bites into my lungs with every breath I take. The snow crunches underfoot like ground glass. Despite the conditions, it's good to be free of the artificial heat inside the cannery.

I blink rapidly for a moment to clear my vision, then dab my eyes on the back of the gloves we've also been issued. It still feels like we're on the cusp of dawn or dusk, even though we must be approaching midday, for our shadows are tapered and stretched. I have to look around to spot the sun, and find just the crest behind the pine trees that border the far side of this headland. It seems distant and burned out, but still gleams through the branches as I move.

Yesterday, having touched down in the heart of a snowstorm, it felt like I had arrived on a different planet entirely. Without the thermal clothing handed out to each of us for this task, all I could do was keep my head down and pray that the subzero temperature didn't freeze my bones before I made it inside. Now, having had some time to reflect and gather my wits, I look around with interest.

Walking away from the cannery, toward the compound gates, I face a vast white expanse banked by forested slopes and elongated shadows. The banks appear to meet in the far distance, which makes me think we're situated at the mouth of some glacial valley. Behind me the cannery juts into this stretch of frozen water. It looks even more run-down from the outside. Weather-beaten to the extreme. Out at sea, icebergs cut the horizon line. Closer to the shoreline, the scuppered wreck of the trawler commands my attention. Only the prow is visible, tipped back so the wheelhouse faces the big sky.

"Eyes ahead, Hobbes. We're not on a sightseeing tour!"

Two guards are flanking us, with a third leading the way. All of them carry assault rifles, while one glance at the watchtowers confirms that snipers are indeed stationed up there. I can see one watching me right now through a pair of binoculars. We stop before the main gates, which are closed. One of the guards is repeating a request into his walkie-talkie and glowering back at the frosted windows of the communications tower behind us. If that's where the gates are controlled, I figure, someone up there must be asleep at the wheel. As we wait in line, stomping our feet to stay warm, the guard dogs in the kennel block go wild once again. This time I feel some connection with them. The only difference between the detainees and the animals caged in there is that the latter don't wear jumpsuits.

"I will not tell you a second time, Hobbes!"

Having come through the interrogation, I find this kind of barking doesn't bother me so badly. I feel as if I've given them everything they needed to know, even if it does seem crazy that I had to come this far to do so.

The way I see things, I'm helping to clear the runway just so I can leave on the next flight out.

When the gates rock open for us at last, we trudge out and turn toward the single-story building where Commander Stagger first addressed us. Yesterday's aircraft is nowhere to be seen. Strangely, this comes as a relief to me. It means at least I don't have to risk my life flying home on that hunk of junk. I look around briefly, in case I've missed a hangar where it might've been taken for repairs, but see nothing but a blanket of snow.


"Sorry, sir." I look at the boot heels of the detainee in front of me. I recognize him from the flight here, along with the guy leading the way. The other four were in cages when we arrived, including the figure just behind me. I don't bother to glance over my shoulder, regardless of the guard, because I know she won't acknowledge me.

All I know about this girl is that she can bear a grudge. It almost makes me feel some sympathy for whoever she believes me to be.

We're each handed a shovel outside the building. A guard is waiting with them on the ramp to the main door, as are three dogs and their handlers.

"That's a dangerous weapon you have there." I turn around and find the guard who has been keeping us in line all the way. He shows me the rifle he's holding. "But this, my friend, is lethal."

He steps up so we're nose to nose. He's not much older than I am, I realize, and sporting a fierce glare. "Don't you forget that, okay? Because I'm watching you, punk. North said you were trouble."

I'm not stupid enough to break his stare with a smile, but privately I am sure North can't touch me now. Not with my interrogation behind me. Another guard with a dog sweeps between us just then, both of them barking at us in different ways in a bid to assemble us properly. The guard who just spoke to me fixes me for a moment longer and seems almost disappointed when I fall into line as instructed. And so, with each detainee assigned a section to clear, I chisel the edge of my spade into the snow as instructed and make my first sweep across the runway.

The girl is working the neighboring section. I might as well be invisible, for all the attention she has paid me, but I'm determined to change that. As strangers we have shared an intense experience here. And I will not leave until she knows this is the only time and place that our paths have ever crossed.

After ten minutes or so I have completed two thirds of my section. The snow I've piled on either side of the runway is dense, like wet sand, but the effort it took to shift has helped to keep me warm. The girl is about halfway through her job. I try to catch her eye as she turns to clear the next strip. She simply grits her teeth and pushes on. Even so, she is forced to look up as the sound of another spade strikes the snow within her section.

"Hi," I say, mindful to keep working as I speak. "You know I can safely say we've never met."

She drives her spade onward.

"Is that a fact?" she mutters finally, which I take as a small victory.

The guards have split up to cover the length of the runway. Right now the nearest one is observing the detainee two sections down from us.

"My name is Hobbes," I say, working toward the girl now. This close, despite the half-light, I notice how dark her eyes are. "You can call me Carl. Which would be a first around here."

Her attention is on the guards behind me as I say this. Then her shoulders drop a little, and some resignation comes into her expression. "As soon as they brought you in," she says in a strong Southern drawl, "I just knew you'd blow it by talking to me."

"You're American!" I reply in surprise.

"Jackson, Tennessee." She leans on her shovel now, considering the icebound horizon. "I'm a country girl, not a goddamn Eskimo."

I smile at this. Even if she doesn't return the gesture, I'm relieved that we're making progress. I also realize we don't exactly have time for small talk. "Look, I don't want to poke my nose into your business," I say finally, "but you've got the wrong guy."

"No I don't," she says, addressing me directly now, and so close the vapor from her breath hits my face with her every word. "I know who you are. Why d'you think I've been freezing you out? I'm trying to protect you!"

Such utter conviction leaves me smiling stupidly. I am exasperated now, and beginning to think perhaps I really have done something to upset her. "At least tell me your name," I reason. "Whatever it is that you think I've done, we're both stuck here for the time being. If I knew what to call you, then neither of us would feel so alone."

I wait for some kind of response, but she isn't the first to break the silence.

"Hobbes! Put your hands in the air and shut your damn mouth! If you so much as breathe another word, it'll be your last. Now get down on your knees."

I'm about to comply, only to be shoved violently between the shoulder blades. The impact jars my spine, and yet I can sense the guard behind it has just held back from really laying into me. Nevertheless, I'm spread- eagled in the snow within seconds, suffering the familiar sting of the plastic restraints binding one wrist to the other. The dogs must have picked up on the drama, given the surge of barking. As I'm hauled to my feet, I catch sight of the girl I've risked so much for just to share a few words. She has also been restrained, though the guards have seen fit to allow her to stay on her feet. We exchange a brief glance before the guard escorts me from the airstrip. As the shock of what's just happened begins to sink in, amid the din from all the dogs, I hear a voice call out behind me.

"My name is Beth!"

I hear her clearly, but there isn't much I can do to respond. I just fix my sights on the cannery and hope the snipers in the watchtowers don't have me in their crosshairs.

Copyright © 2007 by Matt Whyman

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  • Posted November 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Grandma Bev for

    Fort Knox has been robbed. The American government is determined to track down the thieves, and the trail leads straight to Carl Hobbes. He is just an ordinary seventeen-year-old British computer whiz who is only guilty of being a little too curious, but the feds are sure that he is part of a conspiracy that has breached the security at Fort Knox, and they want to know just where the gold is that has been stolen. <BR/><BR/>Carl is taken into custody and whisked off to the Guantanamo Bay of the Arctic to be caged alongside the world's most notorious terrorists. There they try to wring the truth out of him with physical and mental torture. Carl is not sure who is the most dangerous...his captors, or his fellow inmates. What he does know is that he must make them believe him...he knows nothing about the stolen gold or the break-in. How could he? He's just a kid, right? <BR/><BR/>Clearing his name, escape, and survival are the top things on his mind, but the only thing less compatible with survival than his treatment is the landscape outside. They tell him that when the shivering stops, that's when you should start to worry. It's your body's way of signaling that it's lost the battle to keep your blood warm. But by then you'll be too weak to retrace your steps. Chances are you'll be so confused and disoriented that you won't even recall what it was you were fleeing in the first place. All you'll want to do is lie down in the snow and close your eyes. <BR/><BR/>ICECORE is filled with hair-raising action and the fear is real. You won't be able to forget the compelling characters in this story where the suspense builds relentlessly to a crashing, unexpected climax. I'll be looking for more from this exceptional author. Wow! I still have goosebumps.

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